Severe Sumatra haze claims two victims

JAKARTA - Choking haze over central Sumatra has claimed two lives as frustrated residents called on the government to speed up on measures to end their prolonged suffering from forest fires.

One man was found dead in Riau on Saturday while a cancer patient died in Pelalawan last week.

Saturday's victim was found in the peatlands with burns and Riau police believe he collapsed while riding his motorcycle close to a fire in the Meranti Islands district. Mr Muhammad Adli, 63, was found face down near his motorcycle, with burns on one of his hands and on the left side of his waist.

Mr Muhammad might have had difficulty breathing while riding his motorcycle, before he fell onto a burning peatland, Meranti Islands' police chief, Lieutenant- Colonel Zahwani Pandra Arsyad, was cited as saying by local news website

His death follows that of the cancer patient, whose condition deteriorated due to the haze.

The deaths come as nearly 43,000 residents have reported respiratory infections from the haze since January amid a prolonged dry spell.

While ongoing cloud-seeding and water-bombing efforts have had some effect, fires continue to rage, with pollutant levels in many cities remaining dangerous.

Schools have been shut for two days and morning flights were delayed in the provincial capital of Pekanbaru as haze shrouded the city, with the Pollutant Standard Index crossing the hazardous level of 300 in recent days.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.